MANHATTAN, Kan. —
Kansas State coach Bill Snyder still believes the Big 12 should ultimately expand to at least 12 teams, creating two divisions and a conference championship game.
Snyder said Tuesday that “there are a number of programs in our conference who have and would profit from that type of system,” pointing out that teams with multiple losses would generate more interest late in the season by still having a chance to play for a championship.
“You walk out here and you walk through the lobby and you see a trophy case here, and if we didn’t have divisions that would probably be a single trophy case,” Snyder said. “We had a chance to play for division championships, and then conference championships, and that was positive.”
The 73-year-old Snyder has seen the Big 12 go through a dramatic series of changes since he took over the once-downtrodden Kansas State program in the late 1980s. When the old Southwest Conference disintegrated, the Big Eight expanded by four teams to become the Big 12, and played a conference title game every year from 1996-2010.
The game has cut both ways for the Wildcats: They were in position to play for a national championship in 1998 before losing to Texas A&M in double-overtime, but managed to win the Big 12 title and earn a Fiesta Bowl berth in 2003 by upsetting then-No. 1 Oklahoma.
The league has undergone even more change the past couple of years, with longtime member Colorado leaving for the Pac-12 and Nebraska heading to the Big Ten, and with Missouri and Texas A&M joining the Southeastern Conference beginning this season.
The league picked up West Virginia and TCU to remain at 10 teams, and locked up broadcast rights to stabilize a league not long ago on the brink of extinction.
The conference realignment merry-go-round has been spinning again in recent weeks. Maryland is leaving the ACC and Rutgers the Big East to establish a 14-team Big Ten, while Tulane announced Tuesday it would join the Big East, with East Carolina joining as a football-only member.
That’s left the Big 12 in a precarious position: Stand pat with 10 teams or expand to 12 or more, thereby re-establishing its lucrative conference championship game.
“You look at the North Division,” Snyder said, referring to the old six-team division of the Big 12. “I would suggest there are probably four schools that profited by that system. It gave teams opportunities. When I first came back, we were 6-6, not a very good team, but the last game of the season we were playing for a division championship. That has some meaning.”
Provides some drama, too.
Rather than playing a single winner-take-all game on Saturday, two games will be played with title implications: TCU plays No. 12 Oklahoma early in the day before the Wildcats finish up the regular season against No. 23 Texas at night.
TCU can essentially make Kansas State’s game irrelevant by beating the Sooners, because the Wildcats would be assured of at least a share of the title and, through tiebreakers, the league’s automatic BCS bowl berth. And if the Sooners and Wildcats both win, they’ll share the trophy.
“I don’t know that K-State’s game is irrelevant. That’s a bit strong,” Kansas State athletic director John Currie told The Associated Press. “I mean, it matters from a national ranking standpoint, from an individual award standpoint. It’s certainly going to matter to the 50,000 people out here, and the University of Texas, where their season is and where it can go.
“I don’t disagree that you can make an argument against that, but the bottom line is we have four teams playing Saturday, in two different games, that determines the conference race.”
Currie said the Big 12’s athletic directors regularly discuss the merits of expanding to 12 or more teams, but at the moment, league officials appear content to remain at 10.
“Certainly coach Snyder has been up front with his perspective, and I don’t disagree with his perspective, and we talk about those types of opportunities,” he said. “Right now, I believe we continue to discuss the landscape of the league and see where it goes.”
Currie said there are undeniable benefits to having fewer teams: more opportunities to play on television, fewer ways to split revenue, and a deeper conference from top to bottom.
The Big 12 already has nine schools that are bowl eligible.
“It’s a tough deal, but our fans, what have they seen? Everybody in the Big 12 can beat everybody, and that’s not the case in other conferences, where there are games that are just completely non-competitive,” Curry said. “There’s no weak sister in the Big 12. Everybody is really good. And who wins at the end for that? Our fans and our television partners.”